Movie Review: WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT (USA 2016) ***

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whiskeytangofoxtrotbaWHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT (USA 2016) ***
Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

Starring: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Alfred Molina

Review by Gilber Seah

WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT is the military communications term for WTF which stands for….what everyone is familiar with. The title sounds more appropriate than the lengthy title of the memoir called The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan written by Kim Baker about her own experiences as an overseas reporter.

The film charts Baker’s life story while reporting in various cities in Afghanistan. She leaves boyfriend Chris (Josh Charles) to fend for himself as she leaves for an initial 3 months. She befriend the only other female journalist on arrival, Tanya (Margot Robbie). As Baker learns the ropes and gets her reporting done, she learns much about the state of Afghanistan, though these tend to be feminine biased. She falls for a fellow reporter, Scotsman Iain (Martin Freeman). She learns a few painful life lessons as well. All this seriousness is however, conveyed through in a humorous manner.

The film is directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa who did an ok job also with I LOVE YOU, PHILLIP MORRIS.

An outright flaw is the film’s preachiness on women’s issues. One can understand where this is coming from as the film is produced and performed by Tina Fey based on a female’s novel. But one would have expected the all male scriptwriter and directing trio to at least moderate some of the material. The romance overshadows what is going on to the point that the film almost turns out into another annoying Hollywood romantic comedy. The lady saves her lover at all costs with her ingenuity? It is really hard to take in as fact what she did in the film to save Iain. Also, the film praises many feminist issues like the right of afghan women to gossip and socialize at the well, their right to ensure foreigners cover their heads and not hold hands (two scenes has the Fey character admonished for those two ‘sins’) and the women’s roles are much strongly written than the males. The men exist to service the purpose of the female characters. There is the alpha male security of Baker, a hunky no-brain ready to have sex with her at her command. Her main love interest Iain is always there to beckon her ever wish and woos her to no end. And at the social gatherings, the men never have anything important to say. The chief male, General Hollanek is depicted as an egoistic goat who succumbs to Baker’s plans while the Afghan chief of the Interior Ali Massoud Sadiq (Alfred Molina) does more of the same.

The female audience may be delighted however at the Afghan war being looked at from a different perspective. Also, the war with all its horrors is depicted as just that, though doused with quite the bit of humour. One can always be reminded that this is an SNL film – if such a thing exists – produced by Lorne Michaels (SNL) and Fey.

In one segment of the film, Baker is asked the reason she went to Afghanistan. Her answer that she realized that day in and day out she has moved backwards in life as metaphorically observed in her stationary bike that moved backwards after constant use and that she should move forward, one can only wish that the directors’ reason for making this movie also could have achieved this same goal. WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT could have been better, but as the title implies WTF, it leads nowhere. WTF?

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